Southsea Common, Portsmouth
Beyond Portsmouth, Victorious Festival has remained largely below the radar – but it has scored some impressive coups in recent years. Last year’s closer was The Prodigy. Taking place the same weekend as Reading/Leeds they’re mixing with the big boys, but still draw a substantial crowd, with a mix of old-school indie-pop favourites and current chart stars.
When Ocean Colour Scene opened their set on the main stage with dad-rock classic and TFI Friday theme song, “The Riverboat Song”, where else is there to go? For about 50,000 people the answer was to see Lewis Capaldi. Ostensibly on the second stage, he was booked before he even released the single “Someone You Loved”, let alone the planet-eating album, Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent, so demand for his brand of maudlin Scots balladry was high. The field was packed to absolute capacity – possibly the festival’s biggest-ever crowd and, judging from the couples in each others’ arms singing the whole set verbatim, his charm is not wearing off any time soon.
In stark contrast were The Hives, the very spirit of rock’n’roll. Frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist was pure bravado, a man untroubled by self-doubt. And to those who say they only have one song, like The Ramones, it’s a damn fine song.
Headlining the Castle Stage, Bloc Party played their debut album, Silent Alarm, in reverse. It avoided the common problem of “play the classic album” sets, building momentum towards the singles, “Banquet”, “Helicopter” and “Eating Glass”. Drummer Louise Bartle was the powerhouse behind charismatic frontman Kele Okereke.
On Sunday, the Isle of Wight’s Plastic Mermaids brought their wonky indie-electronica to the mainland with added backing singers in tinsel gowns. Their single “I Still Like Kelis” is a joy.
Soon afterwards, Band of Skulls blew out any hungover cobwebs with their post-grunge bombast.
For indie fans of a certain age, The Futureheads, Idlewild and Ash scratched an itch. They all played out of their skins, a Kate Bush cover here and a hefty dollop of 1996 there with more songs you know than you realised.
Closing headliners New Order took some time to get going. An early brace of Joy Division covers, “She’s Lost Control” and “Transmission”, sparked some interest, but they were in danger of losing the crowd until they wheeled out the big guns. “True Faith”, “Blue Monday” and “Temptation” followed in quick succession, before an encore of more Joy Division: “Atmosphere” and, inevitably, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.
In all, Victorious proved again that it deserves to be viewed as more than a parochial outlier, and should be seen as a major player on the national festival scene.